“Continuity in Our Partnerships”
Library and Technology Staff Guide Transition to Virtual Learning
By Karen Shore | Back to Table of Contents
Second-grader Eli Strick, portraying astronaut Neil Armstrong, presents his Time Machine research project in an online forum with his classmates.
Beginning with a full day of professional development dedicated to technology training and curricular planning on March 9, faculty and staff marshaled their knowledge and resources to provide students with a rigorous and engaging distance-learning experience during the statewide shutdown.
Staff in the school’s Library and Technology Services Department proved to be indispensable partners in this shift, offering guidance and expertise to classroom teachers as they tweaked, translated and even reimagined their lessons and assignments for the digital realm.
“We knew we were being proactive”
Director of Educational Technology Sarah Wike said school leadership began planning for this possibility when the first case of COVID-19 appeared in the state in early March. Her first task: creating a website that would highlight best practices and provide resources for virtual teaching and learning.
“The website was rolled out on March 11 and quickly became a hub of information for students, teachers, and parents and caregivers,” Wike said. “We knew we were being proactive, but we never imagined we would be announcing the move to online instruction within a week!”
The virtual-learning website Wike created includes tips for parents and caregivers on how to support their students in navigating their new routine.
The forethought paid off. With preparing additional Chromebooks for students in fifth grade to take home — students in grades six through 12 already enjoy 1:1 access — and surveying teachers and families about their home WiFi access, “it was a frenzied week full of many feelings of uncertainty,” Wike said. “But due to our preparedness on the front end, we were able to move forward with uninterrupted teaching and learning in a way few other institutions did.”
In addition, the Technical Services team transitioned from on-campus triage of devices to remote support of students, faculty and nonessential staff.
“We began directing students, parents and faculty to call our new Technical Support Hotline — powered by Google Voice — or email our Help Desk when devices were not operating as designed. We then shipped a replacement device overnight to the affected household, if needed,” IT Specialist Chris Michael said. “Our goal the entire time was to create a seamless transition from the physical classroom to the virtual classroom.”
Above: Social media posts (such as this photo of kindergartener Emma Hanna) celebrate reading during distance learning.
Left: Winston Librarian Emily Zeblo announces a contest for Lower School families enjoying books at home.
“Getting live feedback”
Bolstered by training led by Wike and Chief Information Officer Jason Ramsden, teachers expanded their use of familiar tools such as Veracross and Google Classrooms. The Lower School made Seesaw their primary portal for homework checks and communications, and Ravens working on research projects enjoyed access to the Sora digital library.
As virtual learning continued, the Ed Tech staff mobilized a variety of new applications and platforms to help teachers maintain student engagement. Screencastify allowed faculty to record how-to clips, for example, and Padlet facilitated daily check-ins.
The technology also bridged the gap for classes in which real-time classroom interaction and teacher feedback is essential.
“While Flipgrid has long been a way for World Language teachers to hear their students speaking, we really started to use it more for students to give feedback to one another,” Upper School Spanish teacher Anna Nethery said. “Pear Deck allowed me to teach a new concept while getting live feedback from the students in the form of questions and polls. And the excitement of virtual quiz games on Kahoot! can’t be beat! Even when the students were apart, they enjoyed competing with one another and seeing their names on the leaderboard.”
Keim Center intern Anna-Claire Bousquet’s screencast walks seventh-graders through planning infographics for their World Geography projects.
Keim Center library staff encouraged students vote for their favorite books using March Madness-style playoff brackets.
“Keeping the community together”
Over the course of the fourth quarter, some projects, assignments and events — many regarded as perennial favorites by students and teachers alike — were adapted to align with the online learning format, including the second-grade Time Machine research project, the sixth-grade Decades Showcase and the seventh-grade World Geography research project. Library staff worked with classes every step of the way.
“The Keim Center library staff did an outstanding job pairing technology resources with our lessons to help students succeed — exceed — in their research,” World Geography teacher Greg Anysz said. “They attended our virtual class to provide instruction, answer questions and set up individual times to review student work.”
Ravens also enjoyed new academic and social opportunities using tools facilitated by the Library and Technology Services Department. Third-grade science students documented their experiences at home as part of a new science project, My 2020 COVID-19 Time Capsule, in partnership with the Winston Library team. The Middle School Battle of the Books team enjoyed a virtual scavenger hunt. Library staff rolled out Summer Book Bingo, Literary Lunches, the Harry Potter Read-Aloud and Literary March Madness to encourage students to keep reading at home.
Katherine Creedon — whose sons Mikie ’25, Jed ’27 and Charlie ’29 span the Lower and Middle Schools — gave the school high marks for their work in the digital space. “We have been very impressed with the virtual learning and the personal videos coming from the administration, teachers and staff,” she said. “I love the Instagram account with #RavensTogetherAtHome and the other ways the school is keeping the community together.”
In the end, determination to continue to offer that strong support and guidance — one of the hallmarks of a Ravenscroft education — drove the work these teams did.
Director of Library Services Angela Finn summed it up this way: “Our priority was to nurture our caring relationships with students while maintaining continuity in our teaching partnerships and support services.”
“There’s an app for that!”
Educational Technology Takes Remote Learning to the Next Level
Check out these online learning resources used by Ravenscroft classes:
(app, website) Enables users to create individualized flash cards and access to a library of flash cards on a variety of subjects at every level — multiplication tables to fluid dynamics and everything in between.
(app, website) Helps students become better writers with automatically scored assignments and spelling and grammar feedback; helps teachers detect plagiarism and provide better, more individualized feedback and grading.
(website) Provides vetted content from over 100 trusted content providers including The Washington Post, the History Channel, Al Jazeera and The New York Times and turns it into classroom-ready learning materials scaled to students’ reading levels.
(website) Game-show format activities for classrooms and remote learning that require knowledge, group dynamics and strategy to succeed. Provides post-game reports to educators detailing individual student and class-wide needs and strengths.
(app, website) Provides gamified quizzes on a variety of subjects for classroom and home use. Users choose existing quizzes and can create their own as well.
(app, website) Educators use existing video lessons from YouTube, Khan Academy and other digital resources or create their own to share with students, with the purpose of maintaining engagement and tracking student participation and comprehension.
(website) Allows students to work at their own level on math, language arts, social studies and science lessons, allowing steady progression aligned with established performance standards. Provides educators with pinpoint data to track students’ growth.
(app, website) Levelled instruction and practice of individual and group research techniques. Provides help with organization of notes, outlining ideas and citing and archiving sources. Educators can track students’ progress on assignments and provide real-time feedback.